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Infosys to go carbon neutral, switch to renewable energy by 2017

Infosys to switch to renewable energy, go carbon neutral

The global information technology services company, Infosys, headquartered at Bengaluru, plans to become carbon neutral and shift completely to renewable energy by 2017. Rohan Parikh head of the Green Initiatives and Infrastructure division at Infosys spoke to Ankur Paliwal. Excerpts:

When did Infosys decide to tread the path of clean energy and efficient use of natural resources?

Infosys has always been responsible towards environment. But four years ago, in 2007, we decided to take leadership in the area of sustainable development and efficient use of natural resources. It is also a way of putting pressure on our peers to do the right thing. Some of our important goals include 50 per cent reduction in energy consumption, and becoming carbon neutral by 2017.

What is the percentage of renewable energy in the total energy consumed by Infosys?

Out of the total 265 million units consumed last year across all our campuses, 10 per cent came from renewable energy, mostly solar. Currently, it is around 20 per cent. Infosys is also proud to have the largest number of solar water heaters used in a commercial organisation in the country. They can heat around 600,000 litres of water each day. We aim to switch over to renewable energy completely by 2017. For this, we are signing contracts with project developers to get the best deals. We are also finding out which kind of renewable energy source is better in which location.

But renewable energy is much more costly than conventional energy. Switching over completely to renewable energy would also require large stretches of land for setting up solar panels and wind farms. How do you plan to do that? Does it make business sense?

At Infosys, most of the renewable energy that we source is from offsite sources like wind, hydro or biomass. We will continue to follow this path, especially in states like Karnataka, which have favourable policies leading to wind and hydro power at grid parity or lower than grid cost. At present, onsite solar energy is not viable as it consumes a large amount of prime land and it is not competitive with grid cost. However, based on the current solar PV trends, we believe that offsite solar plants will reach grid parity in the next five years. Also, when we acquire land for new campuses we make sure we have adequate open spaces to venture into renewable energy. Currently, our onsite solar PV adoption is limited to the available roof space in our campuses. Our wind turbines are erected on tall buildings with adequate wind exposure and topographical ridges. In the long run, it will make business sense for corporations to switch to renewable energy sources as it will help to not only cut down costs but also reduce carbon emissions.

What is your choice of technology for solar panels—crystalline silicon or thin films?

As mentioned earlier, the onsite solar PV adoption is limited to available roof-top space in our campuses. We will continue to pursue the technologies which promise the highest levels of efficiency. We have completed two projects in our Jaipur and Thiruvanthapuram centres where we have adopted mono-crystalline technology for solar PVs. However, the future choice will depend on the most efficient technology available at the time we are ready for the next project installation.

How green are the buildings of Infosys?

We hire smart building experts who help us understand how to make our buildings green. Our Hyderabad building is the benchmark for all future buildings at Infosys. It has exceptional ventilation and orientation to make maximum use of sunlight. The building is designed to ensure that the entire office is day lit without glare from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm. We have also used high performing glass which allows only visible spectrum to come in, ultra violet and infrared rays are reflected. The glass is also double glazed. For cooling, we have radiant cooling system in which pipes of cold water run inside the walls and ceiling to keep it cool. This has led to 30 per cent savings in terms of energy consumption compared to air conditioning. The overall performance of this new building is 50 per cent better than any other building in similar climate zone.

What about water? What choices has Infosys made to conserve water?

Our aim is to sequester more and more water in the ground. Take the example of our Mysore campus. It has the largest residential facility because it is our training centre. It has achieved 35 per cent reduction in water consumption. Our water saving measures include, use of water efficient faucets which allow outflow of only four litres per minute instead of conventional nine litres per minute, use of recycled water for flushing, change in housekeeping practices like dry mopping instead of wet mopping. We also do rainwater harvesting across our campuses. For example, in our campus in Mangalore we have made ponds, lakes, and many wells which are 30-40 feet deep. Mangalore receives 4,000 mm of rainfall annually. As the campus is on a hill, there are seven cascading lakes which are not lined so that water can seep down and recharge the aquifers.

How is waste put to use in Infosys?

The idea is that no organic waste should leave the campus. We compost it and use it in our gardens. We have already set up a biogas plant in our Mysore campus to recycle organic waste from our campuses and generate energy that is further utilised in our campuses. For electronic waste, we share it with licensed vendors only who can use it diligently and extract value out of it. The company runs a regular audit with the vendor to check if they are deriving value out of the electronic waste.

What steps are you taking to reduce daily carbon footprint?

At Infosys we are very conscious of lowering our daily carbon footprint. Anyone who joins Infosys is told and trained about energy efficient practices. We encourage use of public transport. Infosys runs buses for its employees. Only 30-35 per cent employees use private vehicles. Video conferences are preferred over long distance travel.

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